Political Participation on Facebook? An Analysis of Political Discourses on the Facebook Pages of German and Austrian Political Parties

Meanwhile, social media like Facebook have not only become an integral part of the communicative activities of political actors, but they also open up new opportunities for citizens to participate in politics. However, the initially high hopes for an increasing political participation and a democratization of politics have only partially been fulfilled: The fact that these platforms have the technical possibilities for an increased participation of the citizens does by far not mean that this potential is actually used.

Following Habermas’ concept of deliberative democracy, political discourses only succeed if they are based on four communicative principles of understanding: The discussants must justify their opinion, suggest solutions for problems, respect the other discussants and express doubts (validity claims). These principles are necessary for a rational consensus or at least an argumentative compromise to be achieved.

This cross-national comparative content analysis investigates whether and to what extent German and Austrian parties use their Facebook pages to engage citizens in such an understanding-oriented discourse. It also examines how far context factors in both countries (e.g. the importance of populist parties) influence on the political discourse between parties and citizens. Methodologically, the analysis is based on the index of a quality of understanding (Verständigungsorientierungsindex, VOI), developed by Burkart and Rußmann (2010).


Melanie Magin (JGU Mainz, Germany)
Uta Rußmann (FHWien der WKW, Austria)

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